November 2017

Indian Instruments
[Culture-January 2009]

Music plays an important role in Indian culture. There is more to Indian music, of course, than just what we see in Bollywood films.Even though contemporary and modern instruments have become more common, Indian musical instruments hold a great deal of history and traditional and classical music stems solely them.

Indian musical instruments can be broadly classified into three categories: classical, western, and folk. The instruments can be further sub-classified into types based on the science behind them.

There are three bowed string instruments: Sarangi, Sarinda, and Rabab. There are many different types of drums: Chenda, Dhol, Idakka, Kanjira, Mizhavu, Mridangam, Pakhavaj, Tabla, Thavil, Urumee, Udukai, and Dhadh. The dhadh is a small two-sided wooden drum sometimes called damru. It is about 10 to 12 inches in length with a narrow waist in the middle. The parchments are held by cotton straps. It is held in the left hand and played with the right hand.

Other instruments include Ghatam and Jal Tarang. Jal Tarang is a set of tuned rice bowls tuned by filling with varying amounts of water.

The Sarangi resembles the sound of a human voice. The word is derived from the words sau and rangi because the sound is as expressive and evocative as a hundred colors. There are many popular Sarangi players in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and other parts of the world.

The Sarinda is a stringed folk musical instrument. It is played with a bow and has three strings. The bottom part is covered with animal skin. The tribes of India use it in their traditional music and dance.

The Rebab is a string instrument that originated from Afghanistan. It was spread via Islamic trading routes. It is the direct ancestor of the violin. The rebab has been heavily used in Persian music. It is also played in India and Morocco.

Chenda is a percussion instrument from Kerala. It is also used in Karnataka. Both ends of the drum are covered with cow skin. This instrument is famous for its loud and rigid sound.

The Dhol is one of the more popular instruments and drums. It is widely used in the Punjab region. It is very popular in modern Punjabi music. It was used in wars by the Sikhs and by the Jatt landowners to celebrate successful harvest. The dhol is a double-sided barrel drum.

Idakka is an hourglass shaped drum from Kerala, in South India. It is similar to the damaru. It is slung over the left shoulder and played with a stick. The idakka is a very difficult instrument to master.

The Kanjira is from the tambourine family. It is used often in South Indian classical music. It is made of the wood of the jackfruit tree. It is the most difficult Indian drum to play. A kanjira has a very high pitched sound.

Mizhavu is a big copper drum used in the performing arts of Kerala. This drum is played only with hands.

Mridangam is a percussion instrument from South India. It is a double sided drum used in Carnatic music.

Pakhavaj is an ancient Indian barrel shaped percussion instrument. It is widely used in various forms of music and dance performances. It has a low, mellow tone.

A tabla is a very popular instrument. It is used in classical, popular, and religous music. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums. The drums are constructed of goat or cow skin.

Thavil is another barrel shaped percussion instrument from South India. It is used in folk and carnatic music.

Urumee is a double headed hourglass shaped drum from the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.

Udukai is a drum used in folk music and prayers in South India.

Ghatam is used in the carnatic music of South India. It is an earthenware pot. The artists strikes the pot with his hands. Although its shape is of an ordinary pot it is made to play as an instrument.

Indian musical instruments are not just limited to the above. There are many other instruments worth mentioning. Some may be very popular while others are no longer common.

[photo credits:,,,,,,,,,,,,,]

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4 Responses to “Indian Instruments”

  1. Margaret Says:

    hi, I am from Hilcrest and I am doing a project about Ancient India.the instruments do they have anything like a guitar?

  2. inti Says:

    thank you for sharing the beauty, where can i buy some of this drums, i am looking for a double headed drum.

  3. Mr.Tomass Says:

    Great instruments. My grand-daughter is doing her grade 1 exams and she needs to revise and memorize all the Indian classical instruments. Thank you.


  4. Alan Says:

    Can you provide more info on the ghatam? I am doing a project on it.

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